By request, I've started to research transcript servies for the podcast, as some folks told me they prefer to read instead of listening to them. Totally understandable! Here's a transcript of Podcast 69:
Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to another DBSA podcast which, if you've been here long enough, you know stands for Dear Bitches and Smart Authors, except that iTunes apparently doesn't like the word bitches.
I'm Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, and I like the word bitches. I'm here with Jane Litte and Chastity Jenkins-Patrick from Rock Star Lit who works as a virtual assistant and marketing assistant for many authors, some of whom you've most definitely heard of.
We talk about how her work has changed over the years. We talk about productivity and self-assessment, and we also talk about what she and Jane are reading, because apparently they all adore the same books.
Please note, at about 23 minutes in we have a bit of a spoiler-y discussion about “Allegiant”, so if you haven't read that yet, you want to skip ahead to about 24 minutes and five seconds. You've been warned.
Intermix, our podcast sponsor, would like you to know about Samantha Young's new novella, “Castle Hill”, a follow-up to the New York Times' best-selling “On Dublin Street”. I'll have more information later, and now, on with the podcast.
Chas Jenkins-Patrick: Hi. I'm Chasity Jenkins-Patrick. I own a company called Rock Star Lit. We help authors with marketing and all things publicity-like related. I'm also an avid reader. I've been reading literally since I was pushed out of the womb. Romance is my favorite genre, and that's what I'm sticking with.
Sarah: That works. You work as an assistant and a marketing aide for many authors.
Chas: Yes, pretty much. I can do anything from just basic, general admin things to actually putting together full marketing plans for authors when they are releasing a new book.
Jane Litte: The reason that we got to know Chas is because she works with Kristen Ashley.
Chas: Yes. I've been Kristen Ashley's Chas for the last few years. Everyone who reads Kristen knows me by Chas, so that's who I am.
Sarah: What do you do for Kristen? What are some of the things that are your responsibility?
Chas: A little bit of everything, put together her blog tours. I actually edit her books. When she's having a cover designed, help her come up with the final designs, set up bookings, and interviews and giveaways, pretty much anything that you would need a backend office person to help with as an author.
Sarah: How long have you guys been working together?
Chas: Three or four years.
Sarah: How did you meet? Did you send her a fan letter and be like, “I wish to be your BFF.”
Chas: Yeah, basically.
Sarah: Please tell me all of your business.
Chas: Yes. Basically, I sent her a fan mail after “Sweet Dreams”. When I read that book it literally…I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is so great.” I've never sent a fan letter before in my entire life, but this book got me, so I wrote, I don't know, something like 13 paragraphs long just telling her how freaking awesome she was.
Sarah: You know, I don't think anyone likes getting letters like that.
Chas: Well, she wrote me back the next day, and we just basically started chit-chatting in mail. This went on for months, and months, and months. Then finally, I was like, Dude, you need a proofreader. Next book.
Sarah: You don't say!
Chas: Yeah, I was like, you need a proofreader. This is what I do and I sent her our a virtual assistant agency then. We basically helped online marketers. I sent her a link to my website. Here's my website, here's what I do. If you need references, let me know. She wrote me back the next day and says, all right, I'm in. Here's my next book.
Read it. So there you go.
For the longest time, I helped her out and worked with her, and this was when she still lived in England. For pay, she would actually send me these really awesome boxes of English chocolates and English tea. Let me tell you, Easter was my favorite time of year because of the freaking Malteaser Bunnies.
Sarah: Malteaser Bunnies are the bomb.
Chas: They were the bomb. I miss Malteaser Bunnies so bad.
Sarah: If anyone out there is curious about setting up a virtual assistant agency, being paid in Malteaser Bunnies is an option.
Chas: Yes. Yes.
Sarah: But now, you get paid in actual cash, right?
Chas: Yes. Yes. She was very insistent that after she moved to the United States she was going to actually pay me cash instead of Malteaser Bunnies.
Sarah: I think that's a good thing.
Chas: Yeah, it was a really good thing.
Sarah: So, how many authors do you work with as an assistant?
Chas: Well, right now, I have seven active and just keep in mind that those seven have only come around since the beginning of October.
Sarah: That's a lot of people. Wow!
Chas: Yeah, I didn't really…After RWA, Kristen and I had this little chat. I don't know if you know, it was in front of the Marriot back over behind the stairs sitting on a luggage
rack, and she's like, Dude, we've met so many people this weekend who can use your help, so I want you to just expand out your business and start working with other people.
I decided to do that after thinking about it, and the next thing you know we have four new clients.
Sarah: One of the things that fascinates me about virtual assistants for authors, and this is actually an article in the “Romance Writers Report” this month, how to hire and figure out whether or not you need a virtual assistant. I used to be an administrative assistant on a high executive level, so I am pretty fluent in what administrative work means. What are some of the things that you do administratively to help authors out?
Chas: Administratively, let's see, we can help book travel. That's a big one. We have a lot of authors who like to go to book signings and stuff, so if they need help booking their travel we can help with that. Basically, keeping receipts for them to send to their bookkeepers. If we're having a contest and we buy something, they need to be able to track all that for tax wise.
If we're talking about just basic office things, things like that are helping…We have one client whose email would make you freaking scream, so we have a virtual assistant with her who goes in everyday and sorts out her email and tells her what to answer then, and what she can answer later.
Sarah: I have had an assistant do this for me before, and it is a glorious thing. [laughs]
Chas: Yes, yes. We started out with something like 10,000 emails in that box, and it took us three months, until last week, to actually get that inbox sorted out so that it actually made sense. Now she's like, “I freaking love you.” Pretty much, if you can dream it, it can be done from online and virtually.
Sarah: What are some of the hardest things that you deal with when you do personal assistant work?
Chas: Saying no to people. For every author that we have, we get tons and tons and tons of requests for things, like giveaways and interviews, and, “Can you come to this event?” “Can you come to that event?”
At a certain point, you have to be able to say no. Everything on your calendar is booked up for a whole, entire year for that author, and there's not a dang thing you can do to work in anything in between. You have to learn how to say no and do it in a kind way that's not going to piss people off. [laughs]
Sarah: If someone were considering hiring an assistant, what should they evaluate first? What should they think about before they start looking for a person, or looking for a service?
Chas: What they want. What I always tell authors is look at your day as it goes now, and tell me what your ideal day is going to be. Authors always come to us because they don't have time to write. They're doing so many other admin things, or they're on Facebook, literally 12 hours a day, that they don't have time to actually write.
When that happens, when the author comes to us, I actually have this really cool author assessment. That thing has been tweaked throughout the years I've actually been a virtual assistant.
First it was made from Internet marketers, and then I've tweaked it for authors. The first thing I do is make them fill out that assessment because I can look at that assessment and I can tell them exactly what they need based on their answers to the questions.
Sarah: I've done a similar process for myself, where I had to write down all the things that I do and all the things that I didn't want to do anymore, and then figure out if I could ask someone else to do those and teach someone else how to manage that part.
Chas: Exactly. That's the same exact process, except it starts with that assessment for us.
Sarah: What are some of the questions on the assessment?
Chas: It starts out by asking them what their average day is like. I want a whole list of everything they feel like they do during the day. Then it breaks down and asks them how much time they spend making phone calls, or answering email, or working on their work in progress, what they do marketing wise. I have 12 different categories that break it down and I ask them for how many hours per day they spend doing that.
Then it goes on further to ask them what tasks they love to do, which are their least favorite, which they feel is their most time-consuming. It digs down and asks if they have issues delegating tasks to others, if they're detail-oriented, how much do they procrastinate? Then we get into publishing goals for this year, and the next 12 months.
Then I ask them more questions about how much time they spend writing, what time of day they write, just different questions like that. It gets very detailed.
Sarah: One of the things that I find fascinating about the way that publishing has changed over the past few years is that not only are there more options for authors to publish their stories…I mean, there's like so many different options in terms of, “I have written a story. Where am I going to publish it? Am I going to sell it? Am I going to do it myself? Am I going to join with another group of authors and we're going to do it together?”
On top of all of that, there are more opportunities for individuals to develop service businesses to help all of these entrepreneur authors doing their entrepreneurial thing.
Sarah: That's something that you have done, starting with being a virtual assistant to marketers.
Chas: Exactly. That was actually an accident. I started out as a nurse. I was a nurse, and I ran a home health office. I actually had bleeding ulcers from the stress, so I had to take some time off work.
My husband had been laid off during that timeframe, and one of his buddies that he used to work out emailed and said, “Hey, we've got a job for you working virtually from home, helping out this one guy answering customer service emails. Do you want in?” He said…
Sarah: Yeah. [laughs]
Chas: Yeah, of course. It grew from there. Then, they were doing a launch for an Internet marketer who was actually pretty famous. One of his admins, one of his VAs, actually backed out at the last second.
So they were like, “We need somebody we can train and we can do it right now, who was available.” I was “I am. I am here. Let's see how all this goes.” He taught us in the end everything you needed to know about Internet marketing. We were with him for about four years.
He was very encouraging in saying branch out and help other people. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Learn everything you can possible learn. So that is my accidental story of how I became a virtual assistant.
Sarah: You no longer have bleeding ulcers, right?
Sarah: Do you and your husband both work at home?
Chas: My husband is semi-retired. He is actually sitting over here, watching TV and he has actually got his guitar out. He is going to be playing here in a few minutes.
Sarah: Honest to God, I want to hang out at your house.
Chas: It is pretty interesting here.
Sarah: What are the changes that you have noticed as an assistant over the past few years? What are some of the changes you have noticed in publishing?
Chas: There are so many. You can get me started on publishing and can literally keep going for hours on the topic.
Back when self-publishing started, you basically wrote your book, you put up online and you crossed your fingers, said a little prayer and hopefully it caught on. Now the process is a little different. You can still do that, but it is not going to be as effective as there are so many books out here right now.
How many hundreds of thousands of books are sold daily? And options are so much wider. You have got to actually be able to put out a decent product.
You have to have a really good story. You need a pretty cover. You are not supposed to judge a book by its cover but readers do. It is the first thing you look at. There are just so many different things that authors have to take into consideration now.
From a traditional publishing standpoint, you are seeing all these hybrid authors. All these authors who have books in publishing houses but also self-publish other books, too. It is just amazing because ten years ago that would never have happened. You read what the publishers put out.
You would fill in the Walmart or Target bookshelves or your local library or just so happened to come across on Amazon. It has expanded so much now that readers have such a diverse choice of what they are going to read.
Jane, you are awfully quiet.
Jane: I am probably more interested in hearing what you have been reading. We exchanged some emails about different books and you recommended a book, a fantasy book. Why don't you share that? Because I know you have had a hard time finding good books to read.
Chas: Yes, I have.
Jane: After you share the fantasy book, I have to tell you a sad tale and give you a wording.
Chas: The one that I recommended to you is called “After the Ending” and it is by Lindsey Fairleigh and Lindsey Pogue. I have this thing where I have to be in a certain mood to read certain types of books. Myself not wanting to read pure out romance I was wanting to get back to the dystopian world.
It so happened that came across this one. I said “Let's try this.” And I really liked it. I had one little problem with it. Communication was down during this book, but they were still able to email each other.
I actually suspended disbelief because it was just really cool for me. Both authors wrote from a different point of view. One Lindsey took one of the characters point of view and the other Lindsey took the other ones.
I couldn't tell that while I was reading. It just flowed so well. It is people were turning into a zombie type creature taking over the world. This group of people is stuck wherever they are, having to make their way across the United States to a safe haven.
I love that shit. I love dystopian. From the first chapter I was in. So I said Jane you have to read this book now.
Jane: I did buy it. Like you I have to be in the mood and I think I wasn't in the right mood for the book at that time. In the intervening time after you had recommended it to me, I read two motorcycle club books and liked which I recommended to you, which was “Shooter” by Dahlia West and the other was “Move the Sun ” by Susan Frenette.
Chas: Yes. The moment I had the spare time to actually read for personal pleasure reading, I devoured both these books in about a day.
Jane: Susan Frenette's second book came out, “Behold the Stars”. It tells the story of Lauren Allus, this big time drug dealer, mobster who is trying to take over Issac's town and the story is how the night horde fights back.
I was very excited about this book. When it was sent to me for review, I was given the warning that it was very dark. I thought “I am OK with that.” One of my favorite books of 2013 was “The Last Hour of Gann”. The lizard book.
Chas: Which you recommended to me and I devoured in two days.
Jane: It is a pretty dark book. There are bad things that happen in that book. There are bad things that happen to Amber and Meoraq. I figured I could take this but I couldn't. I got to the 60 percent mark when something really horrific happens and I had to take a break.
I wrote to KatiD, who had sent me the review copy with the permission of the author. I asked her if she had read it because I needed someone to share my PTSD with. She said she had left it after 40 percent. I said to her I really want you to read on because I need someone to commiserate with me that about what has happened. I can't suffer the trauma alone.
Chas: So you are sharing the PTSD with others.
Jane: I talked about this book in the last podcast. I feel I need to tell people this book is so dark. I had to stop reading. When it was over, I felt depressed for two days. I had to eat a lot of chocolate and I still had tremor flashbacks when I had to write the review.
Sarah: How bad was this one compared to after you finished the last book of “The Hunger Games” trilogy which is bleak. How bad was this compared to that?
Jane: The last book of the hunger games pissed me off so much that I refused to watch the movies. My daughter loves the series so I have told her and my husband they have to go to see it themselves. I have no desire to watch what happens. I hated how it ended. I hated how everything was so morose and how she was practically forced to be a birthing machine for Peeta at the end. That was grotesque to me.
Chas: I never made it that far in the Hunger Games. I read the first one and I started the second one, and I was like “No, I know where this is going, forget this” I just put it down.
Jane: The second one is basically a rehash of the first one, in that it is The Hunger Games redone but really the Champions Series, all the forward Champions. In fact, I saw her review of “Chasing Fire” and a variety or something, they said, “Wow, this movie is a lot like the first movie. I said, “That's because it's following the book.”
Chas: Right. What I did was end up skipping around and reading the last chapter of the second book and then I read the first chapter of the third book, the last chapter of the third book. I'm like, “Nope. I'm done. I'm out.”
Sarah: I did that with “Twilight”. I couldn't read past the first one because I hated…
Sarah: Shut up! My dog didn't like “Twilight” either, for the record. The minute that I got to the part where she was like filling up her car with a black American Express and she had all these new clothes, I was like, “I'm done here. No, I don't want to read anymore.” Reading the first and last chapters works really well sometimes.
Jane: I did not stop myself from reading the last book because I had to read about the spine-breaking birth. Cleolinda was like live vlogging it or something.
Sarah: You had to say Cleolinda and I started laughing.
Jane: I had to go and read it then. It just seemed like too improbable. I read her words and I knew that she couldn't be lying to me but I thought maybe she was exaggerating. No, not at all.
The other thing that really bothered me about “The Hunger Games” trilogy was that obviously Suzanne Collins was making a statement about war and how war never solves anything. I felt like, what's the option here? Is the option that they stay in captivity and keep sending their kids to be killed every year? They're impoverished.
There was no other alternative that she presented as the option against war. She wanted to make this great anti-war statement but the alternative was that everyone lived in despair and hunger and fear. If she wanted to make that message then she needed to give me something else.
They had two forks in the road. They could have gone A or B and they chose B which was the worst road. If they chose A, there would have been a different result. She never gave the A the different results. That's where it really failed for me.
As for “Move the Sun” or “Behold the Stars”, I guess what really bothered me was two things. First, the author tries to romanticize this motorcycle club gang. She says explicitly in the very first 20 percent, “These people were honorable than the average citizen because they come face to face with their consequences every day.”
First, the average person does come face to face with the consequences of their actions regularly. Second, I'm sorry but meth producers and those who run a protection rank from meth producers are not more honorable than the average person.
Sarah: Meth makes you totally more honorable than everyone else. The only thing better is if you're a motorcycle gang that makes organic tofu.
Jane: Oh, my god. I would almost rather read that. I should probably read that now to wipe the stain of “Behold the Stars” off my head. Later on in the end of the book…the book ended with these two kind of, “We're really honorable and at the end we're heroes,” sort of thing because they took down Lawrence Ellis's gang.
The way that they take them down was really appalling and they were no different than Lawrence Ellis, the bad guy. He was trying to expand his meth operation and they were trying to keep him out. How are they more morally good than Lawrence Ellis? Just because he has more ambition, that makes him more evil?
The actions that they took to save their town and keep Lawrence Ellis out were just as ascribable as Lawrence Ellis's actions for them.
Sarah: You're supposed to buy into that, “They're the good guys!”
Jane: Yeah, I mean she did this blog post that says that she's a feminist and that she's trying to work through how women gain agency after sexual assault. I thought, “Why?”
Then she says, “Lillie…” Lillie is the heroine. She's not an avenger. She's not a black widow. She can't defend herself all the time.
None of the MC guys were captured and raped and beaten and tortured. None of the men are treated like that. Are they Hawkeye? Are they Thor? They came away unscathed and they are the ones are exacting vengeance but somehow, Lillie, the woman, can't. I don't know.
She's got a great voice, very captivating, but I don't know. In any event, if you're going to read that book, Chas, just drink a lot of wine when you read it.
Chas: Gotcha. Chocolate and wine.
Sarah: Is this like all the people on my Facebook timeline who I saw reading the last Veronica Roth book and how excited they were and I wanted to comment, “OK. Please go to a safe place.” With cushions, pillows, and tissues and no Internet and no breakable things, no sharp things.
You should finish this book a safe place. Go there now.
Sarah: You just know it's going to hurt, bad.
Chas: I still haven't finished that last one.
Sarah: You might be better off not doing it. Just make your own ending.
Chas: Yeah, that's what I was thinking to myself.
Sarah: If the real ending is that bad just make your own.
Chas: That's what I was thinking to myself. I was going to wait until I was in a dark, dark place and could handle it. I seem to handle dark books better when I'm in a dark place.
Jane: I was at the theater this week, going to Frozen with my family, there's huge divergent poster and I wanted to write right next to it, “Terrance, she dies at the end.” I didn't.
Chas: I read that spoiler on accident and I'm like, “What? No! I want my damn happy ending, people! No!” That was my big thing growing up when I was reading books. Five years ago, I read the last chapter of a book first to make sure it was going to have a happy ending before I would read it.
Sarah: I do that all the time.
Chas: I actually quit because I've found that sometimes things happen that can surprise me in a book so I go with it. If I'm half way through it and I'm getting irritated, I'm like, “Are they going to pull their finger out and how the hell is this going to end?” I will go ahead, skip and read the last chapter.
Sarah: Who are your favorite authors that you always love to read?
Chas: Always love to read Rachel Gibson is up there, Victoria Dahl. I'm very much into contemporary. Carly Phillips has been on my list for how long ever.
My mom and I have a collection of Carly Phillips books we pass back and forth to each other and it's a big thing. Like, “Don't you break my spine or don't you turn my corners down while you're reading this.”
Kristen Ashley, of course, is one of my go to authors.
Sarah: You got to read all of her stuff early.
Chas: I do. I was telling you last night, I was up late editing and I was actually working on her next book last night.
Sarah: Do you like it?
Chas: I do. It's called “Broken Dove” and it's in her fantasy series, “Fantastical”. Those books, I know people either love them or they hate them. Golden Dynasty is my favorite out of that one. This book is right up there with “Broken Dynasty”. I really like the hero and the heroine in this. They're pretty freaking cool.
Jane: “Broken Dynasty” is on sale right now but by the time the podcast comes on it probably won't be.
Chas: Actually, I think we're leaving that up until the end of December.
Jane: There you go.
Chas: We put the whole entire series on that one on sale before the new book comes out at the end of the month.
Sarah: That's all for this week's podcast. I hope you enjoyed the interview. Future podcasts will include me and Jane and romance novels but you totally knew that, right? Of course you did. The music that you're listening to is provided by Sassy Outwater. You can find her on twitter @sassyoutwater.
This is, yes, correct, Peatbog Faeries, and this is called Room 215 and I really like this song a lot. This is from their album “Dust” and I'll have information in the entry that goes with this podcast about where you can find it and buy it if you haven't already stocked your iPod with Peatbog Faeries.
If you haven't, you totally should. This podcast is brought to you by Intermix, who would like to ask the following question. “What happens after two lovers find their happily ever after?”
Jocelyn and Braden first fell for each other in Samantha Young's New York Best Time Seller, “On Dublin Street”. Now, can they learn how to overcome their demons and truly be together? You can download “Castle Hill”, a new Novella, a follow-up to “On Dublin Street” available now and on sale wherever eBooks are sold.
Coming up next from Samantha Young is “Before Jamaica Lane”, an all-new romance novel coming in January.
If you liked this podcast, and I hope that you did, I hope you will email us and tell us why or ask us questions or tell us what you would like us to talk about next. You can email us at sbjpodcast@Gmail.com. You can also leave us a voice mail at our Google voice number which is 1-201-371-DBSA.
That's a US number so if you're calling from far away, make sure that you are aware that will probably cost like six whole cents. Please, don't forget to give us your name and where you're calling from. We can make sure to include your message in an upcoming podcast. I plan to quiz Jane because it's fun.
If you have a suggestion of what kind of things I should be quizzing her about or you have a book suggestion that you would like me to trick her into thinking is real, you can email me as well.
If you don't want to go to the general podcast email address because you know you don't want to give the quiz away to Jane, you can email me at email@example.com. I'm really glad you're here listening to the podcast. We have a lot of fun doing these and I'm looking for another year of podcasts.
Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, Jane and Chasity and I wish you the very best of reading.